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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of September 26, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

There was frost on the pumpkin – and other surfaces – in some areas of the state this past weekend. While it is true that certain tender plants were damaged, it has been somewhat disheartening to hear several people proclaim that the gardening season is over.  That is hardly the case. Cooler temperatures, the prospect for precipitation, and plant sales at retail garden centers and nurseries make this an ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs. In addition, it is a good time to transplant non-evergreen shrubs that may need to be moved. Though shoot growth is not likely to occur now since these plants are going dormant, root growth and development will continue almost up to the time that the soil freezes.

There’s also plenty of time left to make additional plantings in the vegetable garden. Leaf lettuce, spinach, and radishes are among the cool season crops which grow well in fall. The growing season for these hardy vegetables may even be extended further by growing then under the protection of cold frames and row covers.

In addition to planting, there are these tasks to remind you that the gardening season is far from over:

  • Plant peonies so that the uppermost buds or “eyes” on the tuber are no more than two inches below the soil surface.  Do this carefully because those “eyes’ will be watching you.
  • Add a handful of crushed clam shells to the hole when planting tulip and crocus bulbs.  The sharp shells will discourage voles and other critters from digging up the bulbs.
  • Spread a little lime and some composted or aged manure around the base of clematis vines.  These classy plants love a high pH or sweet soil.  If you have sweet autumn clematis, you are probably enjoying a superb display of flowers now.
  • Renew mulches around trees and shrubs.  Rake the surface of the existing mulch and then add a thin layer of new mulch, preferably of the same type of material.  The total depth of old and new mulch should not exceed three inches, nor should any of the mulch be placed in contact with the trunks of trees and shrubs.
  • Turn under remnants of vegetable crops to a depth of six inches or so. The vegetation will decompose and contribute organic matter to the soil. Also, most disease-causing organisms that infected any of these crops this year will die when worked into the soil.
  • Pick up windfalls and over-ripened fruit that have fallen on the ground.  Yellow Jacket and other wasps change their dietary preferences from meat to sweet at this time of year.  Sugary food items are very attractive to these stinging critters.

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